I wrote this for Halloween in 2022 but I just realized it would have made a better Thanksgiving post- so here we go-
The Wendigo Went To Jamestown
First Published at Enduring Bones
September 13, 2022
Basil H. Johnston, an Ojibwe teacher and scholar from Ontario, gives a description of a wendigo:
Wendigo was gaunt to the point of emaciation, its desiccated skin pulled tightly over its bones. With its bones pushing out against its skin, its complexion the ash-gray of death, and its eyes pushed back deep into their sockets, the Wendigo looked like a gaunt skeleton recently disinterred from the grave. What lips it had were tattered and bloody … Unclean and suffering from suppuration of the flesh, the Wendigo gave off a strange and eerie odor of decay and decomposition, of death and corruption-
It was a macabre archeological discovery. Found in a pit dated from the early 1600’s ( The Starving Time ) mixed with the bones of squirrels and dogs, were the cannibalized remains of a 14 year old girl.
The people who reconstructed her face named her ” Jane “.
I don’t know about you, but when I was a kid in school studying ” American History ” we never got to the part of the story where the the starving Jamestown colonists disinterred their dead and then butchered them for food.
It sounds like a scene from a horror film.
However, I don’t think that anyone was digging up graves by moonlight with a shovel. From what I understand, it was freezing and snowing so I’m not sure how many people were actually buried underground. Still, the idea that a few Jamestown Colonialists went into a makeshift morgue in the dead of winter and chose which bodies would be pulled from their place of rest and taken to a place where I’m guessing that animals were slaughtered and butchered, is a horror that I can’t quite wrap my mind around.
I mean, I get it, I just can’t see it.
Forensics tell us that before she and her fellow Jamestown Settlers began to starve that Jane was well nourished, he teeth were white and beautiful and her bones would have told you she wasn’t a laborer and that her spine and joints probably showed that she wasn’t doing heavy lifting. She was a child of means. I’ll bet she could read and write too.
It’s what happened to her in death that separated her not only from the class she had been born into, but the way the dead are treated by tradition.
Jane’s skull had been cracked open, some of the cuts to her jaw were describe as ‘tentative’ but I’m thinking that someone couldn’t bring themselves to butcher her remains, so they tried to carve her up carefully and then at some point they stopped caring because they simple had to not care in order to do what needed to be done.
There’s something sad about that. Call me sentimental ( or just mental ) but she may have saved some people from starving to death. The way they treated her poor remains doesn’t show much gratitude. They could have given what remained of her a burial. They owed her that.
In my mind’s eye, if the Wendigo touched the colonists, I don’t think it happened when they went into the place where the dead were sleeping. I doubt if it cursed them when they cooked Jane and probably a few other people too.
I think it touched them when they threw Jane’s bones into the garbage pit.
That was evil and that is what the Wendigo really feeds on.